Twelve Monkeys, 1997. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt, David Morse, Christopher Plummer.

It should be noted of Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys that, as a remake of Chris Marker's short film, La Jetee, it neither expands or improves upon the original in any meaningful way. In point of fact, it harkens to Ambrose Bierce's definition of a novel as a "short story padded": 12 Monkeys is actually LESS than its predecessor since it fails utterly to find the same symbological and philosophical center at the heart of La Jetee, despite having four times the running length and a thousandfold the resources. One wonders, given what 12 Monkeys actually takes from La Jetee--which is to say its plot and nothing else--why Gilliam and screenwriters David and Janet Peoples bothered with La Jetee in the first place rather than rework it and avoid the inevitable and wholly justified comparisons with its source material.

The standard against which 12 Monkeys must be measured is actually unfortunate, because, taken on its own, 12 Monkeys is pretty damn good. True, it has too many of the excressences that hamper all of Gilliam's movies and it's saddled with a singularly annoying performance by Brad Pitt, but Bruce Willis gives his best performance in this movie as a doomed time traveller searching for the virus that will destroy mankind. And Madeline Stowe is watchable in anything. Compared to the clutter of Gilliam's other movies, this actually seems downright minimalist. It's still a mess, though, and that makes the viewer (this viewer anyway) grind teeth in frustration, because this COULD have been one for the ages.